Reference Point
a newsletter for customer reference professionals
MARCH 2007

In addition to having substantial experience with Hitachi Data Systems' corporate customer reference program, Jeremiah Owyang is a rapidly rising star in the world of social media. His own blog is in the top 1% according to Technorati. In his video show for the Pod network he has interviewed luminaries such as Michael Dell, Craig Newmark (craigslist founder) and Marc Canter, founder of Macromedia (now Adobe). He has been involved with or managed four Corporate Enterprise Intranets, and two extranets ranging from enterprises such as Exodus Communications, Cable and Wireless, World Savings, and most recently Hitachi. He is also the Director of Corporate Media Strategy at PodTech Networks in Palo Alto, a company focused on Video Blogging, Podcasting and Blogging. And I'm happy to say he'll be presenting at our next Customer Reference Forum on April 24. To learn more about Jeremiah, check out his blog, Web Strategy by Jeremiah.

This month he'll be sharing thoughts on the rise of social media and its coming impact on reference programs. Following is an excerpt. To read the full interview, please click here.

Reference Programs and Social Media: 9 Questions for Jeremiah Owyang


Q: Will social media make marketing obsolete?

A: No, it makes savvy Marketers more relevant.

Marketers are traditional one-way message creators. With Social Media, this forces Marketers to join these conversations of communities that are forming (even if corporations don't participate) and be part of a two-way dialogue that matters.

Customers will be telling marketers exactly how they want their products, information, and services, and that is an opportunity to become better and more accurate marketers.

Q: The premise of marketing is that corporations need to communicate to customers and prospects. The premise of customer reference programs is to gain credibility by using customers to speak on the corporation's behalf. Now with social media, customers are talking to each other, unimpeded. Isn't that dangerous for the corporation? Isn't it dangerous to reference managers' careers?

A: There are definite threatening disruptions for corporations and customer reference managers due to Social Media. My post provides some practical suggestions on how to make the Customer Reference Program MORE relevant.

Instead of just harvesting positive references, by extending the Customer Reference program into the Social Media programs, managers can also help build loyalty, join customers in creating the brand together, improve product innovation and feedback, better understand their customers and learn about other market forces, such as competition.

Most importantly, in addition to the Customer Reference program, the savvy manager will harness the word of mouth of existing customers and get them to sing the praises on behalf of the corporation.

Q: What B2B companies have been notably successful in fostering online customer communities?

A: To start off with, Hitachi had a successful "Community Marketing" program that brought customers closer, connected product managers with customers, extended executive thought leadership, tied together an industry, and leveraged the word of mouth of customers. I'm biased of course, as I lead this program!

Microsoft, Sun, IBM, HP, Wells Fargo, Intuit, every music artist, most TV shows are using online communities for success. There are many case studies and examples that are developing right now.

To read the rest of the interview -- where Jeremiah discusses the best use of social media he's seen by a B2B firm, the worst, how to engage an existing customer community, good sources for further information on social media, and more -- please click here.

Early registration is about to expire for the Spring 2007 Customer Reference Forum. It will be held in Berkeley, CA at the fabulous Claremont Resort (attendees who register early can stay for $200 a night -- a great deal). We plan terrific presentations by Jeremiah as well as Hewlett- Packard's Billie Abrams, Amdoc's Stephanie Porter, Oracle's Gayle McClary and other top reference professionals -- plus a keynote by Ben McConnell, co-author of Citizen Marketers, and much more.

For more information about the event and to register, please click here.


The third installment of WOMMA's original how-to conference series is going to New Orleans April 17-18, 2007. It will feature more than 50 expert speakers and two full days of practical how-to instruction and detailed case studies exclusively for word of mouth marketers. Here's more information about the event .

If you are a reference professional looking for a job or a firm seeking to hire an experienced reference professional, drop me a note (feel free to reply to this email) and I'll get the word out to our community.

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